10 Point Discussion – The Flash 4.08: “Crisis On Earth-X”

by Sage Ashford

The heroes of the CW DC Universe go up against the fearsome Nazi villains of Earth-X. Can they stop their world from being conquered? Apologies this episode took me so long, but I had to figure out how I was going to rework this article to incorporate the other three episodes of the crossover. Remember, if you like this article and 5 Point Discussions, please share it on Facebook or Twitter! It really helps. And if you’ve got any comments or questions, please hit me up @SageShinigami.

1. I mean this in the best way possible: this crossover was kinda gay. In a three-hour (without commercials) crossover where the primary villains basically stand for intolerance of all other races, sexualities, and religions other than whatever they deem acceptable, it’s good that the resistance standing against them was such a largely diverse crowd of individuals. It’s not over the top, but it doesn’t shy away from it, or just leave it to oblique references for “eagle-eyed” viewers to catch either. There’s no shame and it doesn’t feel like they’re making a statement so much as merely displaying life as it is for many people, whether it was Sara and Alex’s cute one night stand or Leo and Ray’s budding relationship. In fact, all of the heroes had a pretty personal stake in this–Barry and Iris’ interracial relationship, Jax and Martin’s non-traditional family structure–this was a real threat to their lives as they knew it, and that made it much easier to get invested and root for the heroes.

2. I feel like this crossover is meant to make you want to catch back up with whichever parts of this universe you aren’t watching. In the Supergirl episode, a very specific reference is made to the 30th century that made me stand up and pay attention. There was a whole season spent wondering where the rest of the team was when they took on longtime Legionnaire Mon-El in Team Supergirl, only for them to abruptly pop up this year like it’s just no big deal. Of course, it’s also questionable they didn’t try to help Supergirl and the others out if they’ve already interacted with her, but there’s a limit to how much they can spend on these four episodes, I suppose.

3. Despite having 52 different Earths to fill out, and despite Earth-X clearly just being “Earth 10”, for whatever reason they decided to make Earth-X a hidden, 53rd Earth that only Wells has ever heard of. This is a prime example of letting real life history limit your own creativity. As terrible as an Earth run by Nazis is, there can definitely be far, far worse ones, so it’s weird that just this one Earth was so “awful” that people who engage in multiversal travel pretend it doesn’t exist. That absurdly depressing Earth the half-robot Wells was from sounds worse than this one, to be honest.

4. I swear Wally was in all of five minutes of Supergirl and then absent for the rest of the episode. Did he just take Joe and his girlfriend and vanish to “protect” them? What’s the point of having Kid Flash if you aren’t going to use him? I get that the budget only allowed them to do so much, but seriously? Hopefully he at least plays a big role in the episodes after the break, because he’s been a joke all of season four so far. Watching this series, you’d never think there was a time where Wally was legitimately the face of the Flash franchise, and so important that most people had forgotten what his mentor Barry was even like.

5. After the first episode, I thought this crossover was going to go light on the Nazi imagery–just a few jackbooted guys who’d get punched in the face and that was that. But nope, they went all the way in: up to and including a concentration “work” camp. This was undoubtedly triggering for some people watching, but at the same time I appreciate The CW for not forcing these series to shy away from just how horrible Nazism and fascism really is, and for showing the true end goal of anyone wanting to walk down that path. The recent resurgence of people sympathizing with Nazi ideals has had many attempts to sanitize the ideology so it can be repurposed for the modern era, so having superhero fiction take an unflinching look at the truth is important.

6. I realize that Victor Garber wanted off of the series, but I really wish they could’ve found a more elegant way to write him off. The Nazis spend half the episodes missing more shots than the Stormtroopers, but Professor Stein had to be their only victim?! That’s just embarrassing. I guess we should’ve seen it coming though, what with the start of the episode mentioning they found a “cure” for them being Firestorm, so Martin could finally go home and be a family man. However, even though I gave up on the bungling cast of super-powered goofballs that are the Legends a long time ago, they still managed to successfully give the character quite the dramatic exit, explaining his part in Jax’s life as a father figure and role model, so that when he finally goes down (in an admittedly stupid, stupid way), you still feel Jax’s pain.

Going forward, I can only hope they find some way for Jax to continue being Firestorm, because I’d hate to see them try to pretend like being Spider-Man without the super strength, agility, or Spidey-sense was the move for anyone.

7. There’s a contingent of people saying this crossover was better than the actual Justice League film. I can’t argue that; this thing is the result of years of character development where the necessary stakes and consequences have been established to keep the viewer invested from start to finish. If you’ve been following all these shows from the beginning (or even just idly keeping up), you know who these people all are and what they mean to one another, and it makes sense that they’d work together even if they didn’t have to purely for “plot’s sake”. Because the CW has slowly cultivated all these shows over the past six years, they were able to connect with audiences in a way that Warner Bros. couldn’t have hoped to do in a single film that had only the flimsiest of set-ups.

There’s literally no way you’re scared of this with Supergirl on your side.

Still, there’s nothing like having the budget of a film for your superhero shenanigans. My biggest problem with this crossover isn’t that it’s bad, it’s that the CW’s impromptu “Justice League” was so over-powered it was hard to believe they were ever in trouble in the first place. The Nazis had Overgirl, “Dark Arrow”, Metallo, and Reverse Flash (more on that in a sec), while the good guys had: Flash, Supergirl, Arrow, White Canary, Black Canary, Wild Dog, Mister Terrific, Steel, Vixen, Isis, the Atom, Heat Wave, Captain Cold, The Ray…and that’s not even counting the heroes that were left out of the adventure!

Earth-X had superior numbers in raw footsoldiers, but nobody cares about a bunch of easily dispatched chumps with such piss-poor aim their guns might as well not even fire. How much better would it have been if the team had been forced to go up against the JLAxis? How much cooler would it have been to have Overman vs. this universe’s surprisingly good Superman? The Ray taking on a Nazi Hawkman? Ultimately the folks working on these shows did the best they could, and the final fight scene was as satisfying as we could’ve gotten given the budget and the level television CGI is at currently, but I couldn’t help walking away from this thinking about what could’ve been.

8. I have so many questions about Reverse-Flash that it’s almost hard to figure out where to start, but fortunately there’s one glaring question that sticks out above the rest: How is he still alive? Is he just confirmed as immortal now, because when last we saw him, the Speed Force zapped him in, right? Secondly, why go the lazy route with Reverse-Flash instead of just having a Nazi Flash to begin with? Just to set it up that Thawne is back? That’s disappointing, unless he’s going to play a direct role in upcoming episodes of The Flash. And finally, why on Earth would Barry let him go?! He’s as much a part of this awful Earth as Overgirl or “Dark Arrow” at this point, but instead of just killing him or at least knocking him out and shoving him in one of their meta-neutralizing prison cells, he literally just tells him to leave??

See, this is why Arrow is the best hero (even if he doesn’t have the best show). Dark Arrow watches Overgirl die from an overload of solar radiation, and just as he’s swearing vengeance on Earth-1, Ollie places an arrow dead in his chest. Like he was supposed to. Because when you’re helping to liberate an Earth from totalitarian rule, you’ve moved beyond “good guy/bad guy” dynamics and need to start putting people down. Seriously, whatever Eobard puts Barry through after this will be entirely his fault, because there was no logical reason he should’ve been allowed to walk away consequence-free.

9. One of the most pleasant surprises of this crossover was the appearance of The Ray (who’s got a cartoon coming out fairly soon). At first he’s just apart of the concentration camp the heroes wind up in, imprisoned for being gay–but he eventually gets freed by the equally surprising (and welcome!) re-appearance of Wentworth Miller in all his scenery-chewing glory. Having a more heroic version of Captain Cold around makes sense, even if it comes at a particularly baffling time, as Miller has already said he plans on leaving the CW-verse.

Even more perplexing then, is that by the end of the crossover the Earth-X Captain Cold doesn’t simply return to his homeworld with The Ray but chooses to stay on Earth-1. I mean, there’s certainly significantly fewer Nazi jerks on our Earth, but…doesn’t he have a planet to liberate? And isn’t this the perfect sign-off for the character if the actor wants to leave? Why leave him hanging around on Earth-1, particularly when that would just imply he’d start hanging out with the Legends, if that’s impossible?

10. I don’t cover Arrow on Comicon, which is good because I see the worst thing about that show is still Felicity. Emily Bett-Rickards is as good an actor as anyone on the series, but it’s impossible to turn trash into treasure, really. She’s still just as emotionally manipulative and frustrating to watch as ever, to the point that even mannerisms on the character I once found endearing have become annoying. Seriously, the crossover ends with Barry and Iris finally getting married after having Nazis break up their wedding, and Felicity interrupts their ordained minister (Diggle truly is a jack of all trades) so he can marry her and Oliver as well? Why’s everything winding up being about her?? It wasn’t quite annoying enough to ruin what was otherwise a fairly decent crossover, but it still felt utterly unnecessary.

The Flash airs on The CW, on Tuesday nights.